Flashback in Friartown: A History of PC’s Housing Over the Years

by The Cowl Editor on September 12, 2019


Aquinas has been a dorm building since PC opened over 100 years ago.

by Max Waite ’21

News Staff

Since its doors opened in 1917, Providence College has undergone incredible changes across the board, which has made it stand out as one of the top colleges in the competitive northeast region. 

In particular, Friartown’s residence halls have all undergone changes, as more buildings have either been upgraded or constructed as a result of the College’s substantial growth over the years.

Perhaps one of the most well-known residence halls among the community is Aquinas Hall. This residence hall has undergone drastic changes in its long history.

On the first floor of Aquinas Hall, or “AQ” for short, resided the College’s first dining hall. On top of that, there was some classroom space toward the end of the hall on one side of the building, with another side featuring the chapel, which has since been converted into the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies. 

Imagine being a PC student back then, leaving class in AQ, grabbing some food in the dining hall, then attending a service in the chapel, all without leaving the building!

Though AQ looks different now, the building’s importance in campus life has not changed.

The other residence halls that share Aquinas Lawn are Meagher Hall and McDermott Hall. Both residence halls used to have classroom space for students. Though these buildings lack the significant changes that Aquinas Hall possesses, they also underwent some small projects in recent years.

Jana Valentine, director of residence life and housing, has been at the college for seven years. Since her time on campus, she has seen changes such as the renovation of the bathrooms in McDermott and Meagher which offer a new and vibrant charm to the building. Additionally, Meagher got new locks for all the dorm room doors.

Another dorm building that more recently experienced change was the old home of the Office of Residence Life, St. Joseph’s Hall. 

Valentine explained, “This past summer, we worked with the Physical Plant in getting Joe’s bathrooms repainted, going for a Friar pride school spirit color theme with the black, white, and grey. It really looks amazing!” Additionally, St. Joe’s now has a new community kitchen, as well as new furniture in the dorm rooms.

Student-athlete Sean Meehan ’22 is living in St. Joseph’s Hall this year and voiced his approval of the new changes. “I absolutely love the new bathrooms. They provide a fresh new look to the building, and don’t get me started on the new mattresses, they’re wonderful. Being a student-athlete is definitely a challenge, but it’s the little things like relaxing on my new mattress at the end of a long day that make it all worth it.”

Next to St. Joseph’s Hall is the Feinstein Academic Center. Many students may have a class or two in this building, but probably do not know that Feinstein used to be called Stephen Hall. Stephen Hall was a residence hall until it was converted into the Feinstein Academic Center in the mid-1990s.

Not all of Stephen Hall, however, used to be dormitories. The top floor with the balcony was actually a health center, where students would go if they were feeling under the weather.

Perhaps the biggest change undergone on the Providence College campus was the construction of the Arthur F. and Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies in replacement of Dore Hall. This dramatic change has proved to be extremely beneficial to the PC community, as the modern building has been very well received and made PC’s pinpoint on the map a little larger.

Dore Hall used to be an all-female dorm with single dorm rooms while Fennell was all-male. Before becoming a dormitory, Fennell Hall was known as Charles V. Chapin Hospital. Once the school bought Chapin and the Ryan Center was built years later, Fennell combined men and women into one building, with a similar living concept to Aquinas Hall.

Despite the success resulting from all of these changes, what the College has found most difficult to work around was “retrofitting” the buildings despite their age. A great majority of the buildings on the PC campus have been retrofitted despite the odds in ways such as adding cable and internet to buildings that predate those advancements.

No matter where one lives on campus, all of the residence halls have undergone many changes with the vision in mind to maximize the living conditions and overall satisfaction of residents.